Effort and Results

“Never confuse effort with result.”

The first time read this quote, it caused me a bit of a problem.

See I buy t-shirts from some smaller businesses, usually military themed. I have a deep respect for those who serve, so if I can use my money to support veterans in their new endeavours I will.

The quote at the top was on the back of a t-shirt that had a menacing logo, worn by a guy with far more muscles than I would ever have. The t-shirt was cool, he was cool, and if I ordered the t-shirt he was wearing, maybe a little of his cool would rub off on me.

Here lied my problem.

How could I put on this tough dudes shirt if I had no idea what the statement even meant? The fact that he had battle scars heightened the fact that he was legit and, me… well… not so much.

I could understand what the words meant individually. I was being implored to never to confuse something important. It was the lack of the “why” it was important, that I should never confuse effort and result, that had me baffled.

I couldn’t close the gap, so I dropped the saying off in my long term memory, never really expecting to hear from it again.

Then one day I stumbled upon a blog from Shane Parrish about Speed and Velocity that included a little Steve Jobs on the side.


T-shirt guy was back.

Here’s a few portions of the article:

“Velocity and speed are different things. Speed is the distance traveled over time. I can run around in circles with a lot of speed and cover several miles that way, but I’m not getting anywhere. Velocity measures displacement. It’s direction-aware.” -Shane Parrish

“People think focus means saying “yes” to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying “no” to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying “no” to 1000 things.” -Steve Jobs

If anyone else is like me, the first paragraph resonates clearly. A lot of energy being expended without moving the needle nearly as much as I hoped. This is where crack of insight started to shine through.

The correlations that linked up in my mind were between Effort and Speed, then Results and Velocity.

Speed/Effort gives the illusion of progress, but falls short because doesn’t make a choice in where its trying to go. Then to Jobs point, saying ‘Yes” to everything is choosing nothing, and outcome bears the fruit of that by not really arriving anywhere substantial.

There are two fundamental distinctions to be gained from this. Firstly, being thoughtful and deliberate in saying “Yes” and “No.” Secondly, understanding that each will have its consequence that will play out over time. Being direction aware of our efforts allows a person to gain velocity, and ultimately get the results we are looking for.

Back to the real world, Parrish and Jobs words provided some context to the t-shirt guys tag line. For me, `I am a little more confident that in the future, I will not “confuse effort with results.”

And if you’re wondering, I never bought the t-shirt. I just couldn’t pull it off.

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